Past for the Eyes: East European Representations of Communism in Cinema and Museums after 1989

By Oksana Sarkisova; Péter Apor | Go to book overview

The Economics of Nostalgia

Socialist Films and Capitalist Commodities in Contemporary Poland

KACPER POBLOCKI

While the very first non-communist government in Polish post-war history “demonstrated the truism that only revolutionaries are able to impose austerity,”1 its executives declared that austerity measures would bring fruits only when all links with the past were broken. The Prime Minister announced in his inaugural speech the need to draw a “bold line” between the inglorious past and the brighter future, and the technocratic finance minister justified the drastic dismantling of socialist industry by his belief that a market economy could be built only on completely new foundations. This revolutionary ambition to make a radical break with the past was never realized: sociologists and other observers soon noticed that the new order was not being built on the ruins of state Socialism, but with those ruins.2

Between 1987 and 1994 dozens of feature films critical of the socialist regime were made. Most of them were still financed by the socialist economy until the “austerity measures” introduced in January 1990 cast the film industry into dire financial straits. The latest among them— Kazimierz Kutz's Death as a Slice of Bread (Smierc jak kromka chleba, 1994), describing the violent confrontation between Silesian strikers and police at the Wujek coal mine after the imposition of Martial Law in December 1981—was already co-financed by private investors including the workers who were determined to put their tragedy on celluloid (Fig. I).3 The political climate changed after the elections that brought a postcommunist party to power in 1993. The post-Communists embraced the

1 Stanley Aronowitz, The Politics of Identity: Class, Culture, Social Movements (New
York: Routledge, 1992), 48.

2 Lászlo Bruszt, David Stark, Post-Socialist Pathways: Transforming Politics and Prop-
erty in East Central Europe
(Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1998).

3 Kazimierz Kutz, “Mord^ga” [The Grind], Kino 5 (1994): 4-8.

-181-

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